Opinion: Putin’s Job Is Easy When Americans Do It for Him
Partisan maneuvering undermines the election process

Russian president Vladimir Putin easily cruised to a fourth term this past weekend, surprising absolutely no one. The only nail-biters were how many people would head to the polls — always unpredictable when the victor is certain — and how completely Putin would trounce the token opposition. Now, presumably, the newly re-elected leader can turn his attention to meddling in elections in other countries.

Speaking of the United States, while both Democrats and Republicans would prefer a little more predictability in the November midterms, if not Russian-style oversight, it is members of the GOP who seem most nervous about the eventual outcomes, especially in close House races. And while the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was officially disbanded in January, its spirit lingers on in hints from officials that certain votes should count more than others.

Opinion: Not the Pennsylvania Message You’d Expect, but One Heard Around the World
World is watching as America struggles with basic questions of democracy and representation

The election for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania was over, yet not over, on Wednesday, with all eyes on the few hundred votes that gave Democrat Conor Lamb an initial edge over Republican Rick Saccone.

And the reckoning has only begun. Amid the hand-wringing from nervous Republicans fearing a midterm blue wave and cautious optimism from Democrats who realize November is a long way off were signs that the tensions of this campaign resonate far beyond a spot in the southwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Opinion: Lawmakers Not Fit to Wear Mister Rogers’ Cardigan
Where is his spirit? Not in Washington

Do you remember “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”? I certainly do. It was my go-to and much appreciated moment of calm when my son was small. And I was as much of a fan as he was.

The PBS show celebrated the 50th anniversary of its national broadcast debut with a special, “It’s You I Like,” which aired this week. During its time, the show, less kinetic than “Sesame Street,” which had its own unique charm, wit and silliness, was sometimes mocked for its simplicity and for the decidedly “un-cool” characteristics of the man at the center.

Opinion: The President’s ‘Black Panther’ Suit — Lessons From ‘Wakanda’ to the U.S.
Trump may not think much of African nations, but he could learn something from what just happened in South Africa

Was Donald Trump among the movie fans pushing the latest entry in the Marvel universe to box office records this past weekend? Where else would the president have gotten the idea to play superhero, rushing to meet an active shooter — as he said he would have at a Florida high school — with only his bravery and, one imagines, a fantasy “Black Panther” suit to shield him?

On second thought, given his low opinion of the African continent, it’s hard to imagine him getting inspiration from any country there, even the fictional Wakanda.

Opinion: After Billy Graham, the Deluge
Graham walked a fine evangelical line. Now his son is veering toward partisanship

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s difficult to ever imagine another faith leader being dubbed “America’s Pastor.” That’s because of the person Billy Graham was and the current political, social and cultural divisions in our country. And there is also the question of whether pluralistic America wants, needs or should have a pastor — now, then or ever.

Graham was never the universally revered and uncontroversial figure that many of those who now praise him remember. But in reviewing the legacy of a man who lived through much of a century that defined American change and who died at the age of 99 on Wednesday in his home in the North Carolina mountains, it is important to give him his singular, flawed due.

Opinion: When Americans Dream, Is This What They Have in Mind?
A land of opportunity — but not always equal opportunity

The “American Dream” may be a problematic concept, but everyone in this country and around the world knows exactly what it means. And truth be told, everyone wants to believe it: If you are determined and work hard enough, smart enough and long enough, you can achieve anything in this land of unlimited opportunity.

Yes, the history of this country, from its founding on, has proved that the dream is not complete. Ask Native Americans, who have a more than convincing argument to counter the oft-told story of American goodness and greatness. Ask enslaved African-Americans and their ancestors who fought and died for rights enshrined in authentically American documents. Ask the Americans whose family members toiled in factories and on farms for little more than subsistence.

Opinion: How Did the FBI Become the Counterculture?
Trump administration the source of more accusations, more confusion

In her 2014 book “The Burglary,” Betty Medsger recounts the barely believable true story of the band of anti-Vietnam War activists (pretty ordinary-to-the-eye citizens, some married with children) who broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971 and discovered some dirty secrets compiled by J. Edgar Hoover and the agency he ruled.

In interviews, members of the burglary team reveal details of the elaborate scheme that alternately bring a smile (one of the group posed as a student to case the joint), a nod to cleverness (the first Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight provided a perfect distraction for the heist) and a gasp of suspense (lock-breaking practice proved to be useless on the fateful night).

Opinion: To Make Government Work, You Have to Respect It
Americans malign but also rely on government workers

Explore any part of the vast expanse of the Western United States, and you are sure to stumble across a plaque affixed to the corner of stone stairs leading to a pathway through a national park or monument. You will no doubt get similar unexpected knowledge from a sign hanging on the wall of a library in small-town America.

Things Americans take for granted, many of them, were financed by the federal government, built by U.S. workers, grateful for the Depression-era lifeline provided by the Works Progress Administration. Many of the roads, bridges and sidewalks that crisscross cities in every part of the country share the same provenance — the federal government everyone complains about.

Opinion: Forgetting What It Means to Be an American
Selective memory of president and supporters imperils the country

The 2004 romantic comedy “50 First Dates” offered a novel, though somewhat implausible, premise — and I don’t mean that Drew Barrymore would find Adam Sandler irresistible. The heroine of the tale, afflicted with short-term memory loss, woke up each morning with a clean slate, thinking it was the same day, with no recollection of anything that happened the day before.

Who knew the president of the United States, most members of a political party and White House staff would suffer from the same condition?

Opinion: Why Oprah in 2020 Is Both Blessing and Curse for Trump and the GOP
Talk of her running for president a political threat, but could distract from “Fire and Fury”

It didn’t take long for “Oprah in 2020” to start trending after the one-named icon’s stirring Golden Globes speech on Sunday night.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering his gift for exploiting political and cultural fault lines, one of the first to connect the media and philanthropic queen to electoral gold was none other than Donald Trump, who has said in the past that the two on a presidential ticket would win “easily.”

Opinion: Will African-American Female Leadership Move Into the Spotlight in 2018?
More voices need to be heard

Recy Taylor died at the age of 97 on Dec. 28. Though she was always loved and admired by her family, friends and supporters, it was in the last years of her life that the wider world saw her, really saw this African-American woman from Alabama — her bravery, her strength and her role as a leader in a struggle that has found a loud voice.

Through a book and a film that amplified her story of being kidnapped and raped by white men, and then speaking out about that horrific crime in 1944, when doing so jeopardized her life, Taylor could more than legitimately claim a role as a mother of the movement that has come to be known as #MeToo, one that has stretched from the entertainment and media worlds to the halls of Congress.

Opinion: Thinking Small When the Big Picture Looks Cloudy
Americans are seeking comfort in the little things — and that could hurt Democrats

Polls that show a view of Congress mighty low and sinking fast invariably find voters more satisfied with their own representatives. Thumbs-down verdicts for Washington and the “swamp” in general often turn rosier when dealing with particulars.

That fact, plus gerrymandered districts and restrictive voting laws, is reason enough for Democrats to be cautious when predicting a 2018 blue electoral wave. Americans are thinking small these days, preferring to stick with the familiar and close-to-home when confronted with issues that gobble up all the oxygen in the room and the brain.

Opinion: The Commandments According to Roy Moore Take a Hit
Pride goes before a political trouncing — and the more humble man goes to Washington

In the Alabama Senate race, both sides went to church — Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones took their appeals to their faithful, which, for the most part, worship the same God but came to wildly different electoral conclusions.

On Tuesday, Jones won. The miracle of a Democrat winning a statewide race in deep-red Alabama actually happened. It was not the divine intervention Moore had prayed for, perhaps pointing out the danger when you so shamelessly use the word of the Lord to divide.

Opinion: The Need for a Royal Distraction on This Side of the Pond
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle offer relief from White House and congressional dysfunction

Though it was heresy in some quarters at the time, I cared not one whit when Prince Charles took Lady Diana Spencer as his bride — and yes, it was pretty much him choosing her as a suitable spouse. I did not indulge in the ritual some Anglophile friends bragged about, setting clocks to wake up to view the 1981 spectacle in real time while nibbling on some British-like snack.

I did not care about the carriage, the bridal party or the design of the wedding dress. These were folks with a guaranteed income, home and life, and I had more serious concerns.

Opinion: Will Tax Bill Open Church Doors Wider Still for Politics?
Knocking down the Johnson Amendment would cheapen America’s pluralism

A place of worship has never been completely clear of politics in America. But that physical and spiritual space for contemplation and reflection may grow smaller still, and moments without intrusion from the bitterness and division in the world could grow shorter.

Tucked into the House version of the tax plan that Republicans dearly crave as “a win” is a provision that would remove a check on places of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — and some nonprofits. The in-danger Johnson Amendment of 1954, one with more intent than teeth, supposedly prohibits pastors and other faith leaders from endorsing or opposing political candidates from their perches of religious authority or risk losing their tax-exempt status.

Opinion: When Holiday Values Meet Policy, It May Be Awkward
From Roy Moore to immigration, there’s plenty of food for thought this holiday season

Just as the generosity of Angel Tree donations and turkey giveaways clash with the kill-or-be-killed stampede of folks looking for a Black Friday bargain, the warm holiday greetings lawmakers disseminate this time of year might strike a dissonant cord when compared to the current policies and politics coming out of Washington.

Pre-holiday news has included a tidal wave of charges and accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, with some lawmakers preferring to view the stories of women and some men through a lens of partisan politics rather than right and wrong — surely not a positive lesson for the kids gathered around the turkey.

Opinion: Remembering Recy Taylor and the Too Familiar State of Alabama
The Yellowhammer State has real heroes. Why Roy Moore?

In “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” a recently released documentary, you see the face of bravery. It is Recy Taylor, the 24-year-old African-American — a wife and mother of an infant daughter — kidnapped in 1944 by a carful of young white men, some the sons of the “respectable” leaders of Abbeville, Alabama, where they all lived. A gun held to her head, she was blindfolded, driven to a remote spot and violated in unimaginable ways. She escaped being killed by promising to keep quiet.

But she did not keep that promise.

Opinion: Will 2018 Midterms Follow Scorched-Earth Playbook?
Look to lessons from 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was a nice little mayor’s race in the largest city in North Carolina, considering that Charlotte has gone through a lot of mayors (seven) in the past nine years. And that’s even taking into account Democratic incumbent Jennifer Roberts losing, in the primary, her chance to defend her spot because of her part in a “bathroom” bill that labeled the state in all the wrong ways and her handling of protests that turned violent after a police-involved shooting.

But all that aside, the scorched-earth campaign between two mild-mannered city council members competing to move into the mayor’s office was a bit unexpected. It reached a heated crescendo with a digital ad from the N.C. Values Coalition, which supported Republican Kenny Smith. The ad said Democrat Vi Lyles “is Jennifer Roberts” and featured an ominous voice-over, a man entering a bathroom to the frightened chagrin of a girl already claiming the space, scenes of rioting and the image of comedian Kathy Griffin holding a blurred severed head.

Opinion: Did Everyone in the White House Take a Nap During History Class?
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wrong to repeat “Lost Cause” mythology

In forward-looking America, history is sometimes regarded as a roadblock to progress, a nuisance. And that, as has been repeatedly proven, is a mistake.

Why look back when the future is so important? Well, because failure to do exactly that has consequences.

Opinion: When the Price Is Too High to Be an American
While military families grieve, Trump and Kelly disparage and disrespect


If I had been in that briefing room when White House Chief of Staff and retired Gen. John Kelly stated that only journalists who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier were allowed to ask a question, I could have raised my hand. But that would have cheapened the memory of a Marine, my beloved nephew, treating his life and death as currency in an unholy transaction.